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The American Correctional Association’s Policy Could Help Bring Adult Facilities One Step Closer to PREA Compliance

Posted in Federal Update Tuesday, 13 September 2016

In late August, the American Correctional Association (ACA) announced its newly adopted policy on the use of restrictive housing in adult jails and prisons. In addition to the policy, they announced a set of expected practices or standards that are in the final stages of field testing.

Restrictive housing, also known and experienced by youth and adults across the country as segregation, isolation, and solitary confinement, is dangerous and often inhumane.  Youth and adults placed in restrictive housing are separated from the general population, held in their rooms for 22-hours a day with limited programming, and many times limited human contact.  According to the ACA policy statement, the goal of the policy is to encourage correctional facilities to use the practice in a “justly, humanely and… constitutionally correct manner…”  Specifically, the ACA calls for the creation of policies and procedures that “[f]orbid solitary confinement that results in isolation… [and] [p]rohibit agencies from confining offenders under the age of 18 in extended restrictive housing.” 

This policy on restrictive housing aligns with one of the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act’s (PREA) Youthful Inmate Standard.

The Youthful Inmate Standard requires agencies to make their best effort to avoid using isolation on youth in adult facilities in order to comply with requirements to house and keep youth and adults separate in adult facilities.[1] The policy also reflects the Department of Justice’s report and recommendations released in January 2016 to limit the use of restrictive house.[2]

On October 15th, Governors across the country will provide the Department of Justice with certification of compliance with PREA or an assurance that they will spend five percent of their funding to come into compliance with PREA.  The ACA’s new policy statement should be used to encourage those Governors who are not in compliance with the Youthful Inmate Standard to makes sure their state correctional policies, procedures, and practices protect youth in adult jails and prison from solitary confinement and extended restrictive housing.  It is critical that Governors hear from communities about the importance of complying with PREA, and particularly the Youthful Inmate Standard which protects one of the most vulnerable populations in adult facilities.  Call, email, write a letter, or tweet your Governor today and during PREA Action Week, October 10th-14th. 

If we want our youth to reenter communities as law-abiding citizens we must at the very least treat them like human beings and show them what it means to be law-abiding.  Tell your Governor to show youth what it means to be law-abiding by ensuring your state is in full compliance with PREA. 
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[1] Youthful Inmate, National PREA Resource Center, (Last Updated Feb. 7, 2013)  http://www.prearesourcecenter.org/faq/youthful-inmates

[2] Report and Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive Housing, U.S. Department of Justice (Jan. 2016) https://www.justice.gov/dag/file/815551/download

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